Guest Feature: Zahra Hankir
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Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Zahra Hankir!
Zahra is a part-Lebanese, part-Egyptian journalist who writes about the cultures and communities of the Middle East. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveller, Times Literary Supplement, Guernica Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Vice, BBC News, Al Jazeera English and Businessweek, among other publications. She was awarded a Jack R. Howard Fellowship in International Journalism to attend the Columbia Journalism School and holds degrees in politics and Middle Eastern studies from the American University of Beirut and the University of Manchester, respectively.
Her first book, Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World, was awarded the Susan Koppelman Award for the best anthology in feminist studies. She was a finalist for the 2022 Popular Features award at One World Media. She is based in Brooklyn and regularly travels to the Middle East. Her next book, EYELINER: A CULTURAL HISTORY, will be published by Penguin Books in 2023.
Zahra truly is one of the most inspiring people I think I’ve ever seen. She goes to great lengths to bring stories to light in such a humanizing way. A great example of this is, in the immediate aftermath of the Port of Beirut blast in August 2020, Zahra interviewed survivors living in Karantina, one of the neighborhoods most impacted by the blast, and chronicled their stories in a series on Medium. Zahra also wrote an incredibly moving essay about loving — and leaving — Lebanon.
And I can’t recommend Our Women on the Ground enough. If you haven’t yet read this anthology, please do so immediately.
I could go on and on about how much I admire Zahra and her work, but at some point we HAVE to talk about her incredible taste in music, which truly spans the gamut of artists and genres:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I've just discovered Palestinian-American artist Lana Lubany and absolutely love her new track, “SOLD”. I actually don't always think that Arabic-English fusion works musically, but she's really nailed it here — the song feels fresh and layered and intoxicating — and I really can't wait to hear more from her. As a second, “Patterns” by Nasaya and Sara Diamond, which I discovered on a late summer's day during a cruise to an open-air cinema in Brooklyn. It captured my mood in the moment and the mood of the borough so perfectly that I often listen to it on repeat.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
This is tough but “Pyriamids” by Frank Ocean. The song to my mind is something of a masterpiece - it feels like a journey through time and moods: we start in Ancient Egypt and end in a hotel. With this harkening back to Ancient Egypt, the song carries with it historical lessons about Black queens and stolen jewels (I'm part Egyptian so I particularly appreciated these nods, though I'd have preferred Queen Nefertiti over Cleopatra). The track is a full 9 minutes 52 seconds long but I always find myself wanting more by the end of it. I'd add to this “Hold Yuh” by Gyptian — feel-good through and through.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
As I'm Lebanese I'm predictably going to say “Ana Le Habibi” by Fairouz — she embodies and captures Beirut, its troubles and its treasures in a way few other singers do. I also love “Ra7 7alfak bil Ghoson Ya Osfour” by Wadih El Safi, which my mother used to listen to on repeat as we were growing up in the UK during the Lebanese civil war, and “Masar” by Le Trio Joubran — it has the mesmerizing effect of transporting the listener to the Levant.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush and “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse. I have something of an unhealthy obsession with Amy Winehouse and her music — I'm currently writing a chapter about her in my new book, EYELINER: A CULTURAL HISTORY, and the more I learn about her and her inner demons, the more enamored I am by her music. These lyrics are heavy and foreboding but also so, so gorgeous and raw.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“Changes” by Tupac makes me want to get up and protest, to demand change. MENA people will remember his shout out to war in the Middle East being so meaningful to the community at the time.
Big shout out to Zahra for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Zahra’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And please follow Zahra on Twitter to keep up with all of her incredible work!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Gravity - Nadine El Roubi
Mouja - Tagne
Give Me Time - Zeina
Yama Elayali - Almas
Qalbi - Yasser Abd Alwahab featuring Zaid Al Habeb
Yalla Talla - Layla Murad
Money - Eaz Da Bully featuring MaMan
ÇA Y EST - Maria Nadim
Tadalat - Imarhan
Sunshine - Plylist
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Devoto - Fátima Pinto featuring KAVVO
El Incendio - Sara y Jacobo
Muy tarde - INE
Tuve, tuve - Los Compadres
Todo Está OK - Fixty Ordara y Ja Rulay
Trending - Young Miko
Que Te Vaya Bien - Kiko el Crazy featuring Zion y Lennox
Monotonía - Shakira featuring Ozuna
En La De Ella - Jhayco featuring Fein and Sech
Bájala - Snow Tha Product featuring Santa Fe Klan
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Love Nwantiti (Remix) - Véyah
Petty - Emotional Oranges
Scene 1 - Sebastian Mikael
Fuku - Niniola
Leave Me Alone - Harmonize featuring Abigail Chams
Conversations with Saturn - Flwr Chyld featuring Planet Giza
Absolutely (Story of a Girl) - Nine Days
Walk Away - Pip Millett
Where I Go - NxWorries featuring Anderson .Paak, H.E.R., and Knxwledge
Snow on the Beach - Taylor Swift featuring Lana Del Rey
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
'Two thirds' of female migrant workers in Lebanon survivors of sexual harassment - Etenesh Abera and Zecharias Zelalem, Middle East Eye
The overwhelming majority of perpetrators are male employers in the home.
The Perils of the Past - Zeead Yaghi, The Point
Living through history in Beirut.
When Robbing Your Own Bank Account Is the Only Option - Lina Mounzer, The New York Times
When people have no recourse to the law, when the lawmakers themselves flout it, what choices are left? In Lebanon, we are finding out.
'A lovely little trip': Economic desperation drives Lebanon residents to tragedy at sea - Nada Homsi, The National
The death of more than 100 people heading to Italy by sea has not deterred Lebanon's increasingly desperate population.
Lebanese youth react to government platform to fight unemployment by providing jobs in Qatar - Ghadir Hamadi, L’Orient Today
Three years into one of the worst financial crises to hit any country since the 1850s, Lebanon’s Ministry of Labor has launched an online platform for citizens to find jobs, albeit not in Lebanon. Instead, the initiative matches Lebanese job seekers with employers abroad, in Qatar.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
The Grim Symbolism of Weddings in Algerian Oral Literature - Ouissal Harize, ArabLit
A wedding in Algeria is a ceremony that represents not only the union of two individuals, but that also fortifies a family or clan by merging it with another. A multitude of celebratory rituals are carefully orchestrated to symbolize the gravity of this act.
Greenwashing a police state: the truth behind Egypt’s Cop27 masquerade - Naomi Klein, The Guardian
Sisi’s Egypt is making a big show of solar panels and biodegradable straws ahead of next month’s climate summit – but in reality the regime imprisons activists and bans research. The climate movement should not play along.
Fury of families as Tunisia migrant drowning victims buried in secret - Ghaya Ben Mbarek, The National
Some bodies remain unidentified after boat carrying 18 people from the city of Zarzis sank.
WHO Syria boss accused of corruption, fraud, abuse, AP finds - Maria Cheng, Associated Press
Staffers at the World Health Organization’s Syrian office have alleged that their boss mismanaged millions of dollars, plied government officials with gifts -- including computers, gold coins and cars -- and acted frivolously as COVID-19 swept the country.
What is happening in the West Bank right now: a full breakdown - Mariam Barghouti and Yumna Patel, Mondoweiss
The resurgence of armed Palestinian confrontation with Israeli colonial authorities has been years in the making, and Israel has launched a months-long military campaign to wipe it out.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
For Bad Bunny’s fans, he’s more than a global superstar. He’s a political icon. - Meena Venkataramanan, The Washington Post
He is the most streamed artist on Spotify globally for the past two years.
The South Asian comedians who walked so Gen Z could run - Sakshi Venkatraman, NBC News
A generation raised in the comment sections of Lilly Singh's and Jus Reign’s videos are having their turn in the comedic spotlight.
Inside a Groundbreaking Anthology That Sheds Light on 18 Queer Arab Voices - Armani Syed, TIME
“I wanted to show that we have agency and can tell our stories in our own way. We don’t need people speaking over us all the time.”
Sahra's Intimate Love Affair: How music has informed the Somali-British jazz singer's heart - Amelia Fearon, AZEEMA
“Sahra describes her younger self as wide-eyed, absorbing her cultural heritage by listening to her father play traditional Somali music in the family household. She began consuming all that surrounded her on those cherished occasions, and her passion for music grew stronger. Now, aged 25 and an established jazz and R&B artist, Sahra reflects on the journey to becoming the woman she is today.”
Preserving a Palestinian Identity in the Kitchen - Aina J. Khan, The New York Times
With many Palestinians fearful that their cuisine is being lost, kitchen practices handed down by family matriarchs for generations are still being passed along.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Buenos Aires’ 108-year-old subway opened just 16 years after Boston’s, making both systems among the oldest undergrounds in the world. But Buenos Aires has been able to achieve what Boston hasn’t: well-maintained infrastructure where trains show up frequently.
You’re going back to the office. Your boss isn’t. - Rani Molla, Vox
Bosses are ordering people back to the office from the comfort of their own homes.
When Segregationists Offered One-Way Tickets to Black Southerners - Jacey Fortin, The New York Times
The “reverse freedom rides” of 1962 were meant to provoke Northern politicians, and have drawn comparisons to the recent flights of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
Taste-fest in a teapot: In crisis-hit Kabul, a master chef and the meaty dish he loves endure - Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times
Constancy and consistency are the keys to a Kabuli restaurant serving chainaki, Afghanistan’s ultimate comfort food.
Amid Inflation and Corporate Windfalls, French Workers Are Rising Up - Cole Stangler, The Nation
The increasing cost of living and the government’s heavy-handed response to a strike at oil refineries is pushing people into the streets, and the discontent isn’t going away.